Sunday, June 16, 2024

Youthful Mares Impress National Team Coach

On Botswana’s Independence Day, 30th September 2022, Botswana women football senior national team rounded off the celebrations with a 2 – 1 win over their Namibian counterparts.

In front of an appreciative crowd at the National Stadium here in Gaborone, coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang’s new look and youthful Mares impressed. Speaking to this publication, the coach could not single out any particular player for praise.

“They were all impressive,” the Mares coach says. “What I can say is that we have a lot of talent. We have quality and determined players who are always willing to work hard,” she continues.

For Nkutlwisang, the display by the mainly youthful cohort came as no surprise. Most of the players had been knocking on the door for sometime. Some had already been called to the team, albeit without playing, while some were from the junior national teams.

“We have been watching them for some time and even called them to the national team camp. Some were from the junior national teams and we have been gradually promoting and integrating them into the senior national team,” she says.

According to ‘Ronaldo,’ as Nkutlwisang is affectionately called, the selection gave her a glimpse at the future. She says all the players called are for ‘now and the future.’ With many of the current national team players reaching their peak years and some in the twilight of their careers, the selection made sense.

“Batswana should expect to see some of these players in the national team if I am still the coach. For me, their availability will give me a good pool of players to select from,” she observes.

This will come handy as the team prepares to play the Olympic qualifiers in the near future. With the men under 23 team already out, all eyes will now be on the women to make Botswana proud.

She is hopeful having a large pool of players will help her during the Olympic qualifiers. Nkutlwisang however cautions that selection will most of the time be determined by the opposition the team faces. Batswana should expect to see some but not all the faces which played at Independence Day at all times.

“If I am to play physical sides like those from West Africa, the likes of Cameroon or Nigeria, you should expect to see me select a certain caliber of players. If I play other teams not as physical, you should expect me to select differently as well,” she says.

Meanwhile, Nkutlwisang is hopeful that the qualifiers will come when the local league is already underway. She says that will give the players some much needed match fitness and also allow her more time to have a closer look at all players.

“We need to have our women’s league playing. Right now, women are only playing tournaments. If we were to face teams like Zambia or South Africa which are already preparing for the women World Cup, we would be at a disadvantage,” she says. Still on the issue of impending Olympic qualifiers, Nkutlwisang says a lot will need to be done to give the local women a shot at qualifying. Aside from continuous engagement in league, she says there will be a need for more international matches and exposure.


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